RB pool redesign plan draws protest among swimming community

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Hannah Strauss
From left: Morley Baker, TJ Pugmire, Kahia Walker, Emily Startup, Rebekah Weinstock, Brenna Wilie, Rachel Weinstock, Ian Belloli, Gabby Wu and Jake Anderson are members of the BYU water polo club team, an organization that would be affected by the new pool design plan. (Hannah Strauss)

BYU’s three pools and 2,000-person spectator area will be torn down and replaced by one eight-lane pool and a 500-person spectator area, according to a petition protesting the action. The petition calls on BYU administration to rethink its plans to renovate the pool, and more than 3,700 people have signed the petition as of Thursday, Nov. 10.

Since the petition was released, BYU administration has conducted meetings discussing the new design plan.

“The current plan is to connect/combine two of the existing pools while preserving the warm-up pool,” according to a post on the BYU Richards Building Pool Facebook page.

The Facebook page is not affiliated with the university, and university spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said BYU has not yet made a decision in any direction.

“We are currently looking at the needs of our aging pool facilities in the Richards Building,” Jenkins said in an email. “However, we are still very early in the design process and have not finalized definitive plans. This is not an evaluation of the swim program.”

The controversy became public as people shared the petition on social media. Michael King, a former athlete who swam for BYU from 2010-2015, said the university promised the swim team a better pool years ago.

“Twenty years ago they promised us a world-class facility,” King said. “With this new plan, they’re going the complete opposite direction.”

Ryan Turner
Students practice swimming and diving in the Richards Building on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. Many groups, including the swimming and diving team and club sports, share the pools with an open swim hosted several times a week. (Ryan Turner)

BYU has brought in engineers to help with a new design, but King said coaches, RB facility managers and adaptive aquatics program managers should be the ones making the decisions. The swim coaches only recently began attending meetings about the design plans, he said.

“I personally believe there is progress being made,” King said. “The whole purpose of the petition is not to take over the decision-making process, but those who are making the decisions should be the ones who are going to be affected by the change.”

Bret Mortimer, a recent BYU graduate who played and coached on the water polo club team, says swimmers and divers aren’t the only ones that would be affected by the new plans. One of Mortimer’s main concerns is decreased pool time for club teams.

“We have been fighting for pool time and recognition for a long time, and to see that if this plan follows through, we’re not going to get pool time,” Mortimer said. “Even though we’re not the swim team, we care about what happens to this pool.”

Mortimer said in addition to swimmers supporting the petition, it needs to be supported by members beyond the swim community in order to make a difference.

“I’ve heard from some people say that it’s going to take signatures from the entire student body,” Mortimer said. “If everyone could contribute signatures to petition, that’s how a real change can be made.”

Hannah Strauss, a sophomore in the pre-management major, is the current team captain for the BYU water polo club team.

Strauss started swimming competitively at 5 years old and continued throughout high school when she also picked up water polo. She uses the BYU facilities at least two to three times a week and said she’s an active member of the swim community.

“I was shocked (about the new pool design) because I recognize that BYU’s swim program is one of the best and that they’ve been expecting a better pool for years,” Strauss said. “It’s honestly hard to believe that they would make such a fundamental change to the pool when the program is so big and they want to make it even bigger.”

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